Update: Summing-Up COP19, plus: what do Dartmouth MA and Warsaw PL have in common?

Wow, does time fly! Here’s an update on a few items from November 2013 to March 2014:

(1) the UN Climate Conference in Warsaw (COP19) was quite an experience. I’ve posted a few pics below. Click here for the best summary that I have seen of the roughly two weeks of proceedings (in that it is comprehensive-yet-accessible) – it originally appeared on the excellent blog of students at Vermont Law School and their summary was republished by the Huffington Post. Special thanks to one of the members of the VLS delegation, Lindsay Speer, for observing, taking notes, and helping compile the take-aways of several roundtable conversations that resulted in a summary: Outcomes of the Warsaw Dialogues on Scaling-Up Local and Sub-National Climate Action (link #17 here). As underscored by the presence of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at one of the meetings (see below), and as explained in a few previous posts to this blog, it is the world’s cities that are feeling effects, setting goals, and actually executing plans to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.

(2) while it’s fascinating to watch people try to bring about positive changes through treaty negotiations and by sharing best practices in a large forum (and, of course, it is fun to meet inspiring people like Philippines delegate Naderev “Yeb” Sano), it was equally fantastic to have come back to my university’s hometown of Dartmouth, Massachusetts. What a treat, at the start of spring semester 2014, to watch my students present their hard work in updating the Town of Dartmouth’s Sustainability Report for 2013. Not only did the town leadership appreciate their preparation and presentation of the new report, featuring updated data and formatting from the inaugural edition in 2012, they said it would actively be used in evaluating the efficacy and desirability of various town initiatives as well as the town’s progress toward sustainability goals. Town Administrator David Cressman particularly highlighted that people consider such information when deciding where to reside. To take one example of an achievement worth publicizing: Dartmouth leads all other municipalities in Massachusetts – even Boston – in terms of solar electricity generation.

(3) now to answer the question: “what Dartmouth MA and Warsaw PL have in common” – there is at least one big similarity – both municipalities are in the vanguard of local governments publishing sustainability reports. Just like the leadership in Dartmouth sees value in publishing data on governance and environmental, societal, and economic performance, so does Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz of Warsaw, Poland. The report can be found in English on Warsaw’s homepage for investors, and in Polish on the Warsaw Department of Infrastructure’s homepage.

It’s interesting how the last year came full-circle: we had prepared sustainability reports for our university, which led to us preparing one for a local town and city at the end of 2012, which led to my suggesting and preparing one with the Warsaw Department of Infrastructure, which led to my speaking about sustainability reporting in Warsaw during the UN Climate Conference. Then, upon returning to the South Coast region of Massachusetts at the start of 2014, it’s clear our students here are keeping the ball rolling on many worthy projects. Thanks to everyone along the way and onward in 2014 and beyond 🙂

Below are some pics from COP19.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressing one of the meetings out of the Warsaw Dialogues on Scaling-Up Local and Sub-National Climate Action, part of the UN Climate Conference in Warsaw, Poland:ImageThe NASA Hyperwall at the American pavilion at COP19 in Poland – showing aerosols in the atmosphere – this is an enhanced visualization of satellite data showing how dust particles can cross the Atlantic from Africa to the Caribbean – search their entire library of presentations here – they are mesmerizing!ImageAs described in the first link above (summarizing the proceedings at COP19), negotiators worked long into the final nights to agree upon, at the very least (and among other things), what they could later agree upon. This turns out to be harder than it sounds. A lot of people in that room, especially those at the negotiating table have truly impressive amounts of patience.ImageAnother pic of the negotiation room just as a break begins.ImageThese people (I’m horrible at estimating crowds, but I’d guess there were easily more than 300, 400, or even 500?) are mostly from NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) that were still there in the final nights, making their frustrations heard by chanting at the rooms where negotiations and other rooms with official proceedings where only credentialed parties or observers could enter. I was impressed because the acoustics of the National Stadium were such that the chants were magnified and echoed so that it sounded like a crowd of thousands when heard from inside the official proceedings:ImageHere’s another of the negotiations:ImageSomewhere in the middle of this huddle a few people with a piece of paper and a pen were trying to agree on just a few words – again, see the first link above to get an idea of what kind of minutia were keeping people in this room, rather than either sleeping or enjoying Warsaw’s fantastic nightlife.ImageTogether with local students and activists and city employees before COP-19 started, we planted several thousand trees to help offset the carbon footprint of the conference:ImageWith Philippines delegate Naderev “Yeb” Sano, shortly after Typhoon Haiyan leveled his hometown and he went on his hunger strike to try to add a sense of urgency to successfully negotiation an international treaty to reduce emissions that are changing climate.ImageThe prerequisite street march protest – some of these people took trains in from other parts of Europe. My impression is that everyone involved in these negotiations means well and are trying to bring about change as best as they know how – whether that means protesting or participating as a delegate, observer, or some kind of advocate or adviser or administrator or academic. Since national delegates to a treaty negotiation are ultimately taking orders from their respective capitals, it seemed to me that protests, lobbying, and pressure would be more effective if they were directed to national leaders at home. But maybe creating a sense of pressure at or near the negotiations might have its role?ImagePart of the Warsaw Dialogues on Scaling-Up Local and Sub-National Climate Action:ImageClimate science is not, in fact, rocket science (below). Observed realities fit with what was expected for many decades now (and using ice core samples, there is supporting evidence over a few hundred millennia): more emissions of gases that trap heat are raising average atmospheric temperature and the temperature of surface waters of the oceans, resulting altered wind currents, extreme changes in precipitation patterns, and other aberrational and catastrophic weather events (among other predicted and now observed phenomena). The only news for a lot of us is that some changes are happening a bit faster than we expected.ImageThis was part of the venue – the impressive and new Museum of the Polish Jews – where we had roundtable dialogues about scaling-up local and sub-national action.ImageWith Bolivian delegates in traditional garb. Consistent with their reputation for being mindful of our connection to Mother Earth, the delegate’s first reaction after trying his first sip of local beer was to smile and ask what were the ingredients.ImageWith the founder of the German Green Party:ImageIs it just me, or is image of a horse (technically not a pantomime horse) checking his smartphone somehow amusing? Keep scrolling down to find out why this fellow was hanging around COP19.ImageIf we look past the Angry Bird and other costumes, these protesters actually have a serious and valid point – the more we move away from meat consumption and even past vegetarianism to the vegan end of the dietary spectrum, we do reduce our impact on the environment by orders of magnitude. I don’t know if any attendees’ choices at the food courts were altered by these people, but thanks, guys, for trying in your own way to spread the word 🙂ImageThis was the view in one of two approaches into the National Stadium. Both involved going through airport-style metal detectors and scanning, maybe to keep out Very Angry Birds 🙂ImageWith Prof. Cynthia Rosenzweig of Columbia U. and NASA and Leszek Drogosz, Director of the Warsaw Department of Infrastructure, at the pavilion of the USA at the Polish National Stadium – Cynthia was among several people who delivered excellent presentations on global climactic patterns and more local or regional phenomena using the NASA Hyperwall. Even those who who are frustrated with the role of the USA in the history of climate treaty negotiations admitted they liked the excellent science discussions and availability of outstanding free coffee – thanks for that, all of you working there 🙂ImageCool view looking up at the suspended ceiling of the National Stadium, the site of most of the COP-19 events:ImageThis is a great idea for promoting (hopefully local) produce and an event, isn’t it:ImageEuropean bison: Białowieża National Park being the only place you can see them in the wild, it made perfect sense to display images of them, among other wildlife, in the corridors during COP-19. Only 10,000 foreigners visit the park annually – this gem of territory (apparently somewhat unknown to the rest of the world) straddling the Polish-Belarusian border (yes, that’s how multiple sources say “Belarusian” is spelled in English) is said to be the last remaining primeval European forest. Largely untouched for most of the past millennium, the land formerly was set aside as prime hunting grounds for the privileged before becoming a National Park.ImageMore wildlife in Białowieża National Park – images in the corridors of COP-19:ImageMore wildlife in Białowieża National Park – images in the corridors of COP-19:ImageMore wildlife in Białowieża National Park – images in the corridors of COP-19:Image

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About Adam Sulkowski

Associate Professor of Law and Sustainability, specializing in research and teaching on sustainable business, corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability reporting, integrated reporting, and corporate and environmental law.
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